Busted Halo
Features : Religion & Spirituality
April 12th, 2010
What Works columnist Phil Fox Rose is interviewed about being on time on NET TV and responds to reader comments

Recently, I was interviewed for the show Currents on the NET TV network about the spirituality of being on time. Watch the video right here on this page; I’ve queued it up to my segment in the show. So that seems like a good enough reason to revisit my column, “Being On Time.” I was surprised (though I shouldn’t have been) when this became one of the most popular What Works columns.

It was a delight to do the interview with Nathalia Ortiz, and to see the co-anchors discussing the subject with her afterwards. Their comments, her questions to me, and the popularity of this column all underscore that so many of us struggle with being on time, and we want help!

Much of the feedback has been about realizing you are bothering others. So let me focus a little more sharply on the issue of selfishness. But before I do, let me stress that I’m not encouraging you to beat up on yourself. We are all selfish a lot of the time. What I’m encouraging is greater awareness.

Selfishness can take several forms. Many people who are late have a mixture of them.

Self-seeking is when you choose your own gain over the interests of others. It’s self-seeking behavior to maximize the productivity or convenience of your own time at the expense of other people’s schedules. Doctors, for example, do this on purpose, because their time has so much monetary value, and, well, they don’t care about yours — and, as with the chronically late, typically they get more and more behind schedule as the day progresses. (If you haven’t already figured this out, book doctor’s appointments in the morning, when they still might be close to their schedule.)

March 31st, 2010
A Good Friday Reflection

Though Good Friday is the most solemn day on the liturgical calendar, for much of my early life it was difficult for me to connect to Jesus and his experience, until my brother was diagnosed with cancer back when I was 19. My faith went through a wringer. All I could ask God was, why? I could no longer pray. Every time I tried, I would just cry. Through the wisdom of my spiritual director at the time, I was able to see that my tears, being the expression of my inner anguish, were probably the most honest prayer that I had yet uttered. I was in touch with my pain, and I was sharing it with God.
This experience helped me realize that where I can connect most intimately with Jesus is through my own human experience. I do not know his experience.…

March 29th, 2010
Devoting a day to faith, family, friends and food

When I was growing up, Sunday was a day for leisure and family. My atheist father did his version of worship: reading the Sunday New York Times from cover to cover while listening to classical music. We had special breakfast meals. (My favorite was ham and cheese pancakes.) In the afternoon there was sports on TV or tinkering at hobbies, and then at night we watched classic Sunday night TV together — especially Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom and The Wonderful World of Disney. Sometimes, when my older siblings were still around, we played family board games.
A day of rest has been part of the human routine since, perhaps, its beginning. You need look no further than Genesis 2:3, where God takes a deserved…

March 16th, 2010
My imperceptible and awkward conversion

Among the seekers at inquiry sessions and the candidates and catechumens in Sunday RCIA classes, one’s Personal Faith Journey is currency. It is asked for and shared like a business card whenever new faces attend, or even when the old ones feel like hearing it again. Even at the Rite of Acceptance, in front of a thousand people, the priest hands the shaking neophyte a microphone and asks, though not in so many words, What could have possibly brought you here?
My story, frustratingly, changes with each telling. I don’t rehearse it, and so I forget bits, I emphasize or de-emphasize incorrectly, and I’m sure I sound totally incoherent. Looking back (I am 25 now), I can only recall the dots, a few insights…

March 15th, 2010
Renewal is possible at any time

The vernal equinox, Easter, Passover and the Iranian New Year are approaching. And this column marks the one-year anniversary of What Works. So I want to talk about renewal, fresh starts. (But first, thank you from the depths of my heart for being a part of this joyful process with me this past year.)

So, fresh starts. There’s a simple little saying you hear around self-improvement circles all the time: You can start your day over at any time. It’s a very useful tool: If you are aggravated and feel like the day is off-track, just pause, take a break for five minutes, walk around the block, say a prayer or meditate, and start again.

It seems a harmless enough little aphorism, but behind it is a huge spiritual principle. We are not controlled by the past. We aren’t controlled by the last sentence we said — we can apologize for its harshness, or acknowledge a lie and correct it — and we’re not controlled by career choices, moves or other huge life choices we’ve made — we can look at the present situation and decide what is best now (for ourselves and those around us) and do that.

We often think we are controlled by the past, though, and this is the cause of terrible suffering.

March 11th, 2010
Making the case for moving beyond your own personal God

Everybody seems to be spiritual these days — from your college roommate, to the person in the office cubicle next to yours, to every other celebrity interviewed. But if “spiritual” is fashionable, “religious” is unfashionable. This is usually expressed as follow: “I’m spiritual but just not religious.” It’s even referred to by the acronym SBNR.
The thinking goes like this: being “religious” means abiding by arcane rules and hidebound dogmas, and being the tool of an oppressive institution that doesn’t allow you to think for yourself. (Which would have surprised many thinking believers, like St. Thomas Aquinas, Moses Maimonides,…

March 9th, 2010
Meet the followers of a dwindling ancient faith which they claim influenced Christianity

His admirers claim he was the first to teach monotheism, the existence of heaven and hell and the final triumph of good over evil. Plato and Aristotle revered his wisdom. Raphael included him among the world’s greatest philosophers in his The School of Athens… fresco. Some scholars insist that he had more influence on Western religion than any single man. Who was he? Moses? Mohammed? Christ? No.
His name was Zarathushtra, and he lived over 3,500 years ago, but his followers still honor him today while fearful for their faith’s survival over the next decades.
“We don’t seek converts,” insists Jamsheb Ravji, a Zoroastrian priest in Chicago. Ravji says converts would compromise

March 2nd, 2010
No one's perfect... just start fresh today

I have something to confess…
It was late, I was out, I was hungry, and nothing else was open, so I went into a pizza shop looking for some garlic knots, which they were out of, and found myself confronted with pizza (cue the lightening flash and horror music), or a really old looking iceberg lettuce salad that was browning around the edges. As the man on the other side of the counter growled, “You’re holding up the line,” I slipped! (Metaphorically. I didn’t actually fall.)
So I confess it… I chose the pizza. I justified it by saying it was Sunday technically, since it was after midnight on Saturday, and therefore not part of my 40 day cheese sacrifice. Still, I slipped — phew —

March 1st, 2010
A challenge to work on everyday acceptance

Acceptance is the answer to all my problems, because if I’m in acceptance, I have no problems. OK, that takes care of this column. See you in two weeks…
If only it were that easy! This simple concept is found in many spiritual traditions and it seems we need to be reminded of it every day. In my last column, I talked about acceptance of reality, acceptance of the limits of human existence. Here I want to talk about everyday acceptance.
That jerk who cut you off on your commute this morning? It doesn’t matter. Just missed your train? There will be another. That woman at the office who plays little power games with you? Let her play. The churchgoer who isn’t as righteous as they “should”…

February 18th, 2010
Looking back at life and death through the eyes of a 10-year-old

For Kathleen Erin Daly
The outside cover of Natalie Babbit’s 1975 novel Tuck Everlasting… poses just one question — what would you do if you could live forever?
I asked myself this very question in1982, a complicated time when I was ten and on an impossible mission to understand not only death, but the litany of unanswerable questions that the subject brought forth: “What happens when you die?” “Why do some people die at age 4 and others get to live to 105?” and perhaps the most elusive, “What is the point of being born at all if only to one day die?” Beginning on January 11, 1982, this quest consumed me. To say that 1982 was the proverbial “winter of my discontent”

February 16th, 2010
A closer look at the benefits of meditation for Christians

In a famous exchange, Dan Rather asked Mother Teresa of Calcutta what she says in prayer and she replied, “I don’t say anything. I listen.” Rather asked, “Well, then when you pray, what does God say?” She said, “He doesn’t say anything either. He listens.”
I often describe meditation in this way: Imagine you and a loved one on the couch, each sitting quietly, not talking, just being in each other’s presence. Not thinking, simply loving. You don’t need to talk.
Meditation in the Christian tradition is sitting in the presence of God — not expecting answers, just being. And like sitting with a loved one, this simple act is heartening and strengthening.…

February 5th, 2010
A retreat series and new Paulist Productions documentary look at forgiveness

Rev. Frank Desiderio, CSP, facilitates forgiveness retreats throughout the United States (forgivenessretreats.org), featuring the award-winning documentary The Big Question: A Film About Forgiveness…, which he executive-produced while president of Paulist Productions. The film tells dramatic stories of astonishing acts of forgiveness, courage and grace, and features psychologists and scientists who study the impact of forgiveness on the human condition, and some of the greatest spiritual leaders of our time including Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, The Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh, Sr. Helen Prejean, Dr. Deepak Chopra and Rev. Joseph Lowery.
“How to Let Go of a Grudge” forgiveness

February 4th, 2010
How The Sims made me rethink the Book of Job

Job takes a look in the mirror. He brushes his teeth and slaps his face, trying to wake up for his first day on the job as a maintenance man at the local zoo. Staring back at him is a man with a blonde mullet and a face full of stubble, a beer gut contained only by a stained white tank top and sweatpants.
He lives in a one-bedroom home. His moods determine the wallpaper, decorations and furniture in the house. Something seems to be missing; he can’t get his comfort level back into the green.
He is lonely because he has no friends. He cries upward, out beyond his world, for assistance, for a salvation that never comes. He feels abandoned by his creator, his father, his God.…

In the computer game, The Sims, you create a man or

February 1st, 2010
The freedom of commitment

I know where I’ll be every Monday and Tuesday evening, and on Sunday mornings. And I know what I’ll be doing first thing every day. This is in stark contrast to a half dozen years ago. Then, the only thing you could count on from me was that I’d probably be alone in my apartment, though I probably wouldn’t answer the phone. I had no regular weekly commitments. Not a one. When I was invited to social events, I didn’t RSVP; I’d just show up or not — that way I could decide at the last minute. My decision was usually no. This change happened gradually, but it is the result of two large events — renewed sobriety and a radical deepening of my spiritual life — and one simple…

January 26th, 2010
The renowned novelist and critic on Reading Jesus

Having spent more than three decades chronicling Catholic life as an author of novels, short stories, essays, memoirs and biographies, Mary Gordon decided to take what some might consider a radical leap for a Catholic: she actually read the bible. In Reading Jesus…, Gordon attempts to understand the rise of fundamentalism by engaging the Gospels herself as a reader. The volume that resulted from this challenge is a compelling blend of meditations, reflections and memories on her own faith life and the evolution of her belief. In the interview that follows, the Barnard professor reflects on the experience of truly reading — for the first time — stories she has heard her entire life, as well as her complicated

January 18th, 2010
A New Year's challenge: Enhance your connection with God

Fra Angelico's The Conversion of St. Augustine (my patron saint)

I’ve been taken aback these last few weeks by all the retrospectives and their universal declaration that the “aughts” were an awful decade. Objectively, it’s hard to argue as they trot out disaster after disaster, setback after setback. And when pressed, I recall that as the decade began I had a six-figure salary at a high-flying dot-com, millions to come with the genuinely likely public offering, and a beautiful girlfriend. I had none of those things within a few years. But I need to be reminded of the losses and setbacks and derailed career, because my perception of the story line of the decade is entirely different. For me the aughts weren’t awful; they were awesome.

You see, for me the key events of the decade are: reclaiming my sobriety, my conversion and baptism, and feeling and answering the call to return to writing, with a new focus on spiritual work. The past decade has in many ways been the most joyous of my life. It has been a period of spiritual growth, of expanding community, and of a radically increased sense of usefulness and purpose.

There’s an obvious connection here. As I said in my column, “Losing your footing and finding the ground“, losing the material things that define our lives can shake us into adjusting our focus, our priorities.

But mine is not a neat and tidy conversion story of: “My life was pointless and painful, then I found God, and now everything is rosy.” For me, the life stripped away by the dot-com bubble burst and 9/11 did matter and, in many ways, was good. I looked forward to going to work every morning and figuring out how to bring more music into people’s lives. My work was both creative and challenging. I lost a good thing. And the same was certainly true of my relationship.

January 12th, 2010
Becoming a spiritual healer

As a natural healer, I noticed that some clients got well in a reasonable amount of time while others, even though they might have the same complaint and receive the same treatments, never improved. This was a conundrum for me until I met Don Elijio Panti. In 1982, my family moved to Belize and I began searching for a local healer to teach me about the medicinal plants of my new home. Everyone I asked said, “You have to go see Elijio Panti in San Antonio.”
Don Elijio, a traditional Mayan healer, was already ninety years old when we met. It took a full year of visits to his stick and thatch clinic in the Maya Mountains of Western Belize before he agreed to teach healing to a gringa…. Over the next twelve years, he taught

December 31st, 2009
Seeking the sacred dimensions of daily life

Faith, spirituality and religion are too often looked upon as the province of “experts” who spend all their time in places of worship with their noses buried deep in holy books. At BustedHalo.com we frequently hear from readers who desperately want to explore their spiritual questions but feel alienated from traditional faith communities. The fact of the matter is that the experience of sacredness is as unique and personal as our fingerprints, but we sometimes fail to recognize these moments as God’s way of speaking to us in our everyday lives.
“Where’s God?” is our attempt to look more imaginatively at the movement of grace in each of our lives and chronicle the countless different ways God is at…

December 31st, 2009
A plea for an end to our culture wars

The uproar over Notre Dame’s honoring President Obama in late May exposed the fissures within American Catholicism that will no doubt be on display following the President’s July 10 visit to the Vatican.
But while it is no secret that American Catholics have been publicly bickering with one another since the end of Vatican II (and well before then, if one reads a little history), what we are seeing now is more disturbing than a simple clash of ideologies.
It is a culture war — but not the broader, endlessly discussed “culture war” between blue- and red-state America. Rather, it is a more specific, more intense, intramural Catholic culture war. It is not pretty and, more importantly,…

December 13th, 2009
Making the best of a bad situation

ww18-alcoholic-parent-inside-The_Drunk

Are you going home for Christmas with trepidation because it means dealing with a drunken parent? Are you not going home for Christmas because, after years of discomfort, you’re not willing to put up with it anymore?

Ever since I first wrote about alcoholism and addiction in the What Works column (Am I An Alcoholic?, Spiritual Recovery), people have asked about a parallel issue — when a friend, family member or partner is an addict or alcoholic. It’s too big a topic to cover in a single column, so for this family holiday, I’ll tackle the most relevant part of it: a parent who’s an alcoholic or addict.

Before my parents passed away, Christmas meant visiting their home. And, among other things, dealing with my dad’s alcoholism. My dad was usually a pretty harmless drunk, getting gradually mellower and eventually passing out. But occasionally he would get rageful instead. And though he never resorted to physical violence, that is all too common a result when alcohol simultaneously fuels anger and loosens inhibitions. (Being of a mix of pilgrim and pioneer stock, my parents’ form of punishment was not violence but shunning — the silent treatment — which could last for days.)

But family holidays meant more drinking than usual, and it meant my dad stayed up and engaged. This combination meant an “incident” or two — of anger or inappropriateness — was likely.

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